Bye week grades: Linebackers
At 1-3, a quarter of the Redskins’ season is already in the books. It’s not the start the reigning NFC East champions had envisioned, but given the sorry state of their division, all hope is not lost, either. As the team enters its Week 5 bye, the players are on hiatus but Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are grading the team position-by-position. Join the conversation in the comments below.
It’s really been a mixed bag through four games for this group. Entering the season, Brian Orakpo and Co. wanted to create a more consistent pass rush. They’ve done that. On the other hand, though, the defense on a whole ranks 31st in yards allowed (440.5 per game) and 25th in points (28 per game) while missed tackles have plagued the unit. And no one can be pleased about that, especially the linebackers.
El-Bashir: As I mentioned in the intro, the pass rush has been much improved. Ryan Kerrigan already has five sacks (a year after recording a career-best 8.5) and Orakpo has three, putting him on pace for a career-high 12. Overall, Washington’s defense ranks fourth in sacks with 15, 11 of which have been produced by linebackers, and they’re about to get back Rob Jackson (4.5 sacks in ’12) from suspension. The big question for this group going forward is London Fletcher and whether he can turn it on down the stretch as he did last season. The 38-year-old was virtually a non-factor against the Packers (one solo tackle) but rebounded with stronger efforts against the Lions and Raiders. At times, Nick Barnett has spelled Fletcher, who has seven missed tackles according to ProFootballFocus.com. Barnett’s involvement should help but it also underscores the fact that Fletcher no longer is the stalwart he was before.
Tandler: The 3-4 defense is designed to let the linebackers make plays and that means that they have to make tackles. But in the first four games the Redskins’ starting linebackers have missed a combined 18 tackles. Issues like that have ripple effects through the defense. As Tarik noted, on the plus side, both Orakpo and Kerrigan are getting consistent pressure on the quarterback, getting hits and hurries in addition to sacks. If they can continue to disrupt the passing game they can help the secondary while it tries to gel. This unit is supposed to be one of the strengths of the team but they haven’t been leading the charge. Although they have done some positive things, overall they have been more part of the problem the part of the solution.